A federal judicial panel ruled yesterday that California must reduce its prison population by up to 58,000 inmates in two to three years, saying that “the present state of overcrowding” makes it impossible for the state to deliver health care at a constitutional level, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The judges cited many avenues available to the state and counties other than an early-release program – like parole reform, increased good time credits, and programs to reduce recidivism. They all fall under the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act’s definition of a “prisoner release order.”
The judges will issue a final opinion later, but yesterday’s order is meant “to give the parties notice of the likely nature of that opinion, and to allow them to plan accordingly,” the judges said. Inmates’ attorneys expressed hope that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his administration, legislative leaders, county representatives, and other affected parties will work out a settlement. Corrections secretary Matthew Cate said that state disagrees with the ruling, and called the release of that many convicts “onto California streets”  “a significant threat to public safety.” Attorney General Jerry Brown called the ruling “a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals.” The state can appeal the ruling directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.